American retailers head for UK, despite downturn

Crate & Barrel, the US homeware chain, is just one of a handful of overseas retailers heading for London to open new stores, despite tough times on the high street.

The Chicago-based, German owned company is planning to bring CB2, a smaller version of the Crate & Barrel concept, to the UK and is in talks with UK landlords to find small 5,000 sq ft stores. Until recently, Crate & Barrel had been reluctant to head to the UK due to the high rent required to secure a store.

CB2 is joined by Marmot, a Californian-based outdoor clothing and equipment retailer that was founded in the 1970s. It is set to open stores in London and the South-east.

Coming from Europe, Spain and Portugal are supplying two new fashion clothing brands to the UK. The Spanish young fashion chain, Coolway, is close to signing leases for two stores in London and Bluewater, while the Portuguese group, Sacoor Brothers, has also entered into agreements to open shops in the South-east.

Overseas retailers have long been a source of variety for the UK's city and shopping centres.

US retailers American Eagle, Victoria's Secret and Forever 21 are all planning new stores in the UK, and last week the New York-based womenswear brand Kate Spade signed up for a 10-year lease on a Sloane Square store, which will open in September.

The retail property expert, Hugh Radford at DTZ, said: "London is a safe bet to begin expansion if you are an overseas retailer. It is seen as a stepping stone to Europe for the US retailers and vice versa for European retailers. There are plenty of opportunities for retailers to expand here."

Despite the recent spate of administrations in the UK, landlords found most retailers paid their rent on time in spite of the difficulties.

Tim Leatham, director of shopping centre management at Savills, said: "We have hit 95 per cent collection rate levels seven days after quarter day on the majority of the centres we manage. It is unfortunate some retailers have gone into administration, but the vast majority of retailers have paid their rent on time and in full."

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